Chapter 1 - The Red Moon
Our story begins in Erebonia during the Middle Ages, some two hundred years ago. The War of the Lions had concluded in Western Zemuria, and Emperor Dreichels, a driving force behind its resolution, had been deceased for over a decade.
The Imperial capital, Heimdallr, was a beautiful, traditional city with rows of cheerful red brick buildings that had earned it the nickname the 'Vermillion Capital.' In one back-alley of the city, however, a solemn mood reigned. Soldiers in military uniforms paced up and down while a crowd of onlookers gathered to see what was going on. They clung to the edges of the scene, refusing to disperse no matter how many times they were asked.
At the center of the commotion lay a young woman. Her skin was shockingly pale, as if not a drop of blood ran through her veins. On her neck two dark red spots stood out in stark contrast to the pallid flesh.
Seeing this, a middle-aged soldier let out a loud sigh and took out his pocket watch. It was just after six. He gave a curt order to his subordinates to find out who she was, and the woman's body was swiftly carried away from the curious stares of the gawkers. After watching her safely borne away, he noticed a younger soldier following the woman with his eyes, as well.
He tapped the young man on his shoulder. The soldier started, seeming to realize that he was still on duty.
'...Ah, sorry, Garrard.'
Somewhat flustered, Alphonse adjusted his beret, then hung his head apologetically. Though snapped from his reverie, it was clear that he still had something on his mind.
'I believe I've told you before to address me as 'sir' while on duty. I am your commanding officer, after all,' Garrard said jokingly.
With a fond pat on the shoulder, Garrard reminded him to stay focused and then left to give orders to the rest of his subordinates. Alphonse quickly returned to his post, silently grateful for Garrard's characteristically thoughtful gesture. Watching this exchange was another young soldier the same age as Alphonse. Scowling unpleasantly, he gave an audible tut.
The girl's untimely demise, though shocking, was but one in a series of grisly murders that were the talk of the town. Most of the victims were young women who had been out at night, and they had all met their ends through loss of blood. Or, put another way, the victims had died after having all of the blood drained from their bodies.
Furthermore, all of the bodies which had been found had something else in common: each had bite marks on their neck, as if they had been pierced by incredibly sharp fangs.
It didn't take long for word of this to start to spread among the people of Heimdallr, and all who heard the rumors were quick to think of one of the many ancient legends which existed in Erebonia. Specifically, the legend that described immortal, monstrous creatures which roamed the land at night feeding on the blood of humans. It was these very legends that eventually became the inspiration for the mass killings' new moniker: The Vampire Murders.
That night, after his duties were complete, Alphonse made his way to a small tavern tucked away in a corner of the capital by the name of Alegria to enjoy a late evening meal. As he sat down to his dinner, a pretty girl near his own age with a glossy chestnut ponytail studied him with obvious concern.
'S-So, how is it, Alphie? Is it nice? I hope so. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.'
The girl, Lucca, had been Alphonse's friend since his arrival in Heimdallr about ten years before. A shy, nervous smile tugged at her lips as she continued to watch him. Alphonse felt a hot blush creep up his neck under her intense gaze, but he forced himself to eat. The beef stew she had made had a simple, yet comforting taste to it. 'Yeah,' he assured her. 'It's really good. You've really gotten the hang of this.'
Lucca relaxed at his words, and with a few quick self-conscious glances at the rest of the tavern customers, she seated herself opposite to him. Her courage seemed spent after this gesture, though, and they sat in awkward silence for some time until she managed a hesitant, 'H-How's work going these days?'
At the word 'work' Alphonse's hand, which was carrying food to his mouth, instantly came to a halt. Despite the so-called Vampire Murders going on for quite some time, they had been unable to find a single clue to the culprit behind it all. The corpse of the woman from that afternoon flashed across his mind's eye, and the pleasant flavor of the stew died on his tongue.
So young... She must have had family, friends, perhaps even a partner, just like anyone else. She had had her whole life ahead of her, and yet that life had been brought to a sudden end - just like so many others before her. What the criminal had done was unforgivable, but the reprehensible nature of the crimes wasn't the only reason that Alphonse was obsessed with this case. Though, sadly for him, there was very little that he could do to solve it now that he had been removed from the investigation team.
Lucca's soft voice brought him back from his thoughts.
'Alphie, just...just don't go overdoing it, okay?'
Her kind words made Alphonse realize how tense his expression must have become. Her concern embarrassed him.
'I'm fine, honestly,' he said in what he hoped was a reassuring voice.
Alphonse was a member of a unit of the Imperial Army popularly known as the Garrard Team, which was responsible for maintaining law and order in Heimdallr. Garrard, the team's commanding officer, had long cared for Alphonse like a father, and it was his recommendation that led Alphonse to join the army and become a member of the team. Since then, he lived in a dormitory near the army's guardhouse.
His meal at the tavern finished, he sketched Lucca a quick goodbye and took his usual route back towards
The dormitory. An eerie red-colored moon hung full in the sky, bathing the brick buildings in a bewitching carmine glow. Walking along, Alphonse couldn't help but notice that the number of people on the streets at night was much smaller of late. Considering the culprit behind the Vampire Murders still hadn't been found, that was hardly surprising, though. And yet, despite the fact that barely anyone dared to take to the streets, new victims kept appearing one after another, as if to mock the soldiers who patrolled in the dead of night to keep them safe. The sense of fear in the city increased by the day, and was a deep unease shared by all, even the soldiers. Silently, he swore to himself yet again that he would stop at nothing to catch whoever was responsible and bring them to justice.
Suddenly, Alphonse stopped in his tracks, his troubled thoughts interrupted by the sight of an unaccompanied woman walking ahead of him. The deep shadows blanketing the path made it difficult to be certain, but she seemed unsteady on her feet. To his further surprise, she then turned and disappeared down an even darker back-alley.
Considering the ongoing Vampire Murders, it was hard to believe that anyone could be so careless. With a resolute air, Alphonse set about following the woman, determined to call out to her and try to prevent her from coming to any harm. He entered the back-alley.
Gloom obscured all but the sharpest of angles. He squinted, willing his eyes to adjust. The soft outline of a woman's back took shape in the depths of the alley.
'Excuse me, miss, I'm not sure it's wise to be--'
Alphonse forgot what he was going to say.
Something was wrong. Slowly, the woman turned to face him. Her head hung limply to the side, long hair masking her face. A hint of eyes could be seen through the wild locks, but they held no focus, no awareness. She opened her mouth and moaned.
Horrified by the disturbing figure before him, Alphonse froze. In an instant she was on him. Arms outstretched, she lunged and seized his neck in a crushing grip. Taken completely by surprise, he fell backwards, the weight of her pinning him down. Slowly, methodically, she began to squeeze.
'Gaaaah...?!' he croaked.
How could that seemingly lifeless woman be capable of such unnatural strength? No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't pry her hands from around his windpipe. All his training, his youthful strength... none of it seemed to count for anything against those unyielding claws. Her fingers dug deeper still, and the already painful absence of air became indescribable agony.
From his low vantage point, Alphonse was able to see more of the woman's face now. It swam in and out of view of his oxygen starved brain, but her pale flesh was almost luminous against the darkness of the night. Her lips were chapped and colorless. As she squeezed they began to part in a hungry leer, the edges splitting.
Although Alphonse could barely understand what was happening, his instincts knew exactly what the woman was about to do. He bucked and writhed desperately in her grip, but her hold was too great. Black began seeping into his vision. Even as he remembered the saber belted to his waist, he was too weak to draw it.The blank-eyed woman thrust her face eagerly towards his neck, teeth bared and mouth yawning wide. Alphonse began to close his eyes. Death seemed his only choice. ...But just then, the world in his fading view exploded.
「アルくん……ど、どうかな？ おいしい？ 今日のは自信作なんだよ」
Continue Reading Red Moon Rose
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